Much has been said of Singapore’s multi-ethnic culinary landscape and the (rather) well-acquainted palates of its people, but few can attest to an experience of authentic Japanese dining in the Lion City, without having to pay top-dollar for it (Re the spike in luxury gyu and sushiyas in recent years).
The city – which just released its second run of the Michelin guide – has no shortage of excellent Japanese restaurants. In fact, one can easily be spoilt by the variety of trendy izakaya bars, innovative Japanese-fusion cuisine and, traditional kaiseki and sushi specialists. But if you have room for a bona fide nihon eatery that serves high quality produce and won’t strain the wallet, add Kagurasake 神楽酒, a modern izakaya joint occupying one of Duxton Hill’s fashionable row of shophouses, to your list.
Often packed with Japanese expatriates, the still-relatively unknown izakaya boasts a sizeable menu of Japanese-European fare that can be paired with reasonably-priced sake, wine, biru and whisky highballs. Kagurasake is said to be helmed by chef and Osaka-native Hiroaki Maeda who is familiar with the local dining scape, having moved to Singapore 12 years ago. Maeda-san also used to run a kaiseki restaurant at Cuppage Plaza.
Dishes at Kagurasake are well-balanced in taste and elegantly plated. Maeda-san is light-handed on the seasoning (and for good reason, as many establishments here tend to go overboard with flavouring) and has a tendency to garnish his heavier dishes with refreshing vegetables or an acidic component like pickles. The signature miso-marinated iberico pork jowl (SGD$18) – which is known for its well-marbled fat – is delightfully paired with slender slivers of zingy myoga ginger and sweet shishito pepper. We also enjoyed Maeda-san’s no-frills take on grilled anago (SGD$22) – a salt-water eel that is less commonly served in restaurants here than its freshwater counterpart, lightly salted and served with grated wasabi root.
For sharing, a must-try is the classic tori no kaarage – generous chunks of deep-fried chicken which are hot, juicy and tender all at once. Highly addictive. Mains such as the hot soba with iberico pork belly (SGD$18) are also worth a mention, though we were slightly bumped to have missed out on Maeda-san’s signature mentaiko pasta served with uni and ikura during our last visit.
Amidst delicious grub, loud and casual nihongo chatter that fills the narrow walls of the restaurant, and several glasses of deliciously cold Gin no Tsukasa junmai daiginjo (SGD$24/180ml) later, one might feel as thought he or she is in the heart of Japan, instead of 70 Duxton Road. One thing’s for certain: Kagurasake is our new go-to izakaya in Singapore.
70 Duxton Rd, Singapore 089529
Mon-Sat: 6pm onwards